Red starts with much promise but fails to deliver. Set in Eastern Tibet where Chieftains rule with a fair amount of cruelty. It is a feudal society. The Maichi clan is ruled by a powerful chieftain with two sons; the eldest who is to inherit the power and land of his father and the“idiot” son. It is the second son who narrates the novel. He is constantly called idiot because of his facial features but he achieves greater success than his older brother. The novel is interesting but at over 400 pages not worth the time it takes to read it.
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It would have been better named Sugar and Slavery because that is the main thrust of the book. Interesting that I found this book so shortly after reading Isabelle Allende’s latest novel The Island Under the Sea, which covers much of the same ground but in fiction. Abbott explores the horror that colonizing Latin America brought to the native peoples. And how the demands of the sugar economy had ripped apart African communities and forced slaves across the Atlantic to work sugar cane plantations.
“Sugar slavery’s most insidious creation was the racialism that justified enslaving Africans and forcing them into the cane fields. Slavery was not born of racism; rather, racism was the consequence of slavery.” In the Caribbean after slaves successfully rebelled they were denied work and quality life when the plantation owners brought in indentured labourers. Indentured labour is merely another kink of slavery but with a promise of freedom when the people had paid off their exorbitant bills to the plantation owners. “Through indentureship, the British West Indian sugar industry smashed any hope that emancipation would transform the social and economic structure of the sugar colonies.” The sugar business led to the colonization of Hawaii. It changed the island forever when it brought in indentured labour from China.
An interesting read but repetitive so it needs skimming.
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Posted by Brian Bassingthwaighte in Cultural, Family, Historical Fiction, Mystical, Political, Romance, war, tags: fiction, mental illness, physical abuse, sexual abuse, slavery, torture, war
Island is a rich historical novel of racism and slavery. The first part takes place in what will become Haiti on Sainte-Domingue. Tete is bought by a French sugar plantation owner who rapes her when she is 11. She has two children fathered by her owner. The second one she is allowed to keep. Allende’s strong descriptions of the brutality that slaves lived with all their lives are chilling. The sugar trade in the Antilles was often called “blood sugar.” When the slaves rebel Tete saves her owners life and is promised her freedom and her daughter’s freedom. They flee to New Orleans where the story drags somewhat.
Allende is one of my favorite authors. But this is not one of best works. Still it is a good read.
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